“Chilli Powder and Thinner” produced by Freedom Film Network

Update as of July 23: Since publishing this post, four other human rights activists have been questioned by police. A full compilation of events can be found here. The film has also reignited the debate on deaths in police custody in Malaysia.

The Human Rights Film Network has also been working with key international film and human rights personalities, organisations, and film festivals to convince the Malaysian authorities against pressing charges against Freedom Film Network co-founder Anna Har and the others involved in the film. To join this initiative, you can include yourself or your organisation in this letter as a sign of support to her, Freedom Film Network, and all human rights defenders in Malaysia.

On Friday, 2 July, Malaysian police questioned filmmaker Anna Har, co-founder of Freedom Film Network (FFN), a member of the Video4Change Network, and cartoonist Amin Landak over their short film Chilli Powder and Thinner. Released in June 2021, Chilli is Har and Landak’s animated short film, which tells the story of three young prison inmates who allegedly suffered intense custodial torture.

On the same day, police took possession of Har and Landak’s mobile phones. Police then raided the FFN office and the home of Amin Landak, where a desktop computer, a router, and Amin’s laptop were confiscated. The office of human rights organisation and FORUM-ASIA member Pusat Komas was also raided.

Free Malaysia Today reported that the police have made a case against Har and Landak under “Section 500 of the Penal Code for defamation, for statements that could cause public alarm and distress, and Section 233 (1) (a) of the Communications and Multimedia Act for improper use of network facilities”.

In an interview, Har told Malaysian radio station BFM that the focus right now should be on incidents of police brutality rather than on those who highlight them. “Ideally what would have been best would be the police… investigate the case itself and find out if this is really happening. And if it does, then take action, then tell the public, that will instil public confidence. By doing something like this…[it] just looks like intimidation”, she said. A clip of the interview is linked below.

Both the film and the investigation into the filmmakers are relevant in light of the push for the Independent Police Complaints of Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) Bill. The bill proposes the creation of an oversight body to look into and discourage incidents of police excesses. FFN, along with several Malaysian human rights groups such as Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM), have been advocating in favour of the bill. You can find social media posts supporting the bill under #IPCMCNow.

Who have spoken up?

A number of organisations have registered their protest against the police action against Har and Landak:

  1. The Center for Independent Journalism, together with its partner organisations, issued a statement condemning the raid and the questioning, and have called for more accountability for the police.
  2. Forum Asia responded to the development by calling for “the repeal of repressive legislation, and for the government to end the intimidation of artists and human rights defenders”.

What can we do?

The case has yet to progress, but here are some actions you can take until we have more information: